Obstacles that threaten residential real estate purchases or sales that are under contract don’t happen that often. But when they do, buyers and sellers often find themselves in a tailspin. Being prepared for those situations and knowing their options can help buyers and sellers decide whether to move forward or move on.

Reporter Devon Thorsby wrote about some of the most common deal threateners for home buyers and potential courses of action in a September 16 article on USNews.com.

Her number one worst-case scenario: when the lender says no to a mortgage for a home under contract. The buyer might think his or her credit is clean as a whistle, but the lender decides otherwise. As Thorsby pointed out, that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the deal. Buyers can attempt to find a more willing lender or try to convince the original underwriter to agree to the needed amount for the mortgage. Often, however, problems identified in a buyer’s financial history do make it necessary for buyers to reevaluate what they can qualify for and move on to something more affordable.

To prevent this unexpected obstacle from happening, buyers should not try to guess what they can afford. Rather, they should get preapproved for mortgage amounts. Preapproval (not prequalification) allows buyers to move more confidently into a deal, with much less risk of being turned down for a mortgage.

Another unfortunate and often unexpected scenario: The appraisal comes back, and it’s less than the contracted sales price of the home. Lenders frown upon this scenario and often don’t approve mortgages when appraisals fall short. Again, buyers have an option if they want to stay in the deal. They can pay the difference. But many can’t afford that option or don’t want to use precious cash to do so. Another option is to go back to the seller and renegotiate, which is more likely to be successful when the real estate market is cool, rather than hot. For buyers who choose not to pay the difference or renegotiate, walking away is a viable option.

The USNews article’s third potential deal-breaker: The inspection reveals big problems. Buyers have to take the findings of inspection reports seriously because while some issues are minor and are worth fixing; others can threaten the buyer’s ability to pay for or live in the home. A leaky roof, for example, will need addressing quickly. And if that means having to replace an entire roof, the new homeowner might be looking at tens of thousands of dollars in additional investment. Buyers concerned that a surprise problem identified in the inspection is too much to ignore can either go back to the seller to ask for a lower price or get out of the deal entirely, according to Thorsby.

Getting out and not moving forward with deals could be the best option for buyers in all three scenarios, given a home is among the biggest investment of their lives, according to the article.

Sellers can also find themselves in pickles for these and other reasons. Realtor Joan Harned answered a seller’s dilemma in her September 16 “Ask a Realtor” column on VailDaily.com. The sellers’ home sold much faster than anticipated, and they didn’t know what to expect or how to proceed. Among their questions: Should they stress about keeping the house clean for the inspection and appraisal, or could they begin packing?

Harned suggested these sellers hang in there and keep the place as tidy as possible for the inspection and appraisal. While these reports shouldn’t be swayed by how disheveled the house appears, it’s human nature for even inspectors to be influenced by their surroundings, she noted.

Harned also wrote it’s never too early to start looking for a place to go for a smooth transition out of the old house and into the new.